06 October 2012

And then there was Stirling...

by Shane Nicholson | CRO Executive Editor

Questions have been asked repeatedly, and deservedly so, of the performance of the players and staff in the opening act of this campaign.

But the questioning of
Ally McCoist: Manager had started long before. From the double exit of Europe, and a matching effort in the cups. Squandering the seemingly unassailable 15 point lead in the league - most of which was pinned on the loss of a single player - and the shocker that was Queen of the South at Ibrox.

I have been and still remain of the opinion that McCoist is the unquestioned face of the club. The image of him leading us through the maelstrom that has unfolded since February cannot be pushed aside.

But some of the greatest managers in world football act as little more than figureheads, a guiding hand for the club they lead, and perhaps there is no better example than the greatest manager Scotland has ever produced, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson by his own admission does little on the training ground. He is a man who relies on his staff to guide his team sheet and tactics. It’s been his MO for going on a decade now, and it has been a successful formula to say the least.

But Ferguson is never afraid to challenge his men, or to have them challenge him. Yes, his word is law. But that word is shaped by an ethos that has been tried and tested and perfected over a number of years. And his willingness to dismantle a staff and recraft it to suit his needs and ideals, to provide him with a fresh set of challenges, has been at the root of United’s success for three generations of sides now.

When I watch Rangers now, and over the course of last season, it’s clear that Walter Smith was the guiding hand of the setup and execution of the side on the pitch. His staff was there to fill the gaps, to provide input on selection and tactical decisions, but Walter’s word, like SAF’s, was undoubtedly the law.

It was assumed that Ally could be in no better company going forward than that of the men who made up the core of Walter’s staff for the 3IAR. And indications were, based on his in-game management in cup ties, that Ally would be capable of carrying the mantle.

But even at those times the Old Man was standing over the shoulder, lending advice to and forming the tactical nous of his heir apparent. And now there is something quite seriously broken in the setup.

An ethos has not been applied. Tactics are torn up on the back of a single result. The entire playing structure of the side broke down along with Steven Naismith last season.

This season was seen as an opportunity to lay down a new set of markers, and to set the course for the campaigns that would follow. McCoist would put his stamp on the style and future of Rangers.

That has quite clearly not happened, and the time has come for a change. The comfort and stability of the backroom staff has led to stagnation in the development and growth of McCoist the Manager. The credentials of McDowall and Durrant cannot be questioned, but their ability within the setup as it stands can.

Ferguson reluctantly let Queiroz walk for Portugal. United carried on with a double-winning season.

Wenger allowed Pat Rice to ride off into the sunset after years of calls for a change to be made. Steve Bould instilled seemingly overnight a new spine in the Arsenal side.

Questions have to be asked of the role of the backroom staff in McCoist’s set up as we move forward. Walter’s word alone was enough to bring men to the peaks of their career, but the principles of his system were not guided by the men behind him. Rather they were supplemented and crafted, the rough edges smoothed, by the advice of his staff.

McCoist is not Walter Smith. He does not have the decades of experience at all levels of management to allow for such methods to continue, but this method is the level of comfort for McDowall, Durrant, et al. This is what they are accustomed to, but it is not what is needed by their boss at the present.

Either a new benchmark has to be laid down and the staff must strive to accept their new roles, or the staff itself has to change. And on the back of the performances we’ve seen the past 14 months, it’s clearly shaping up to be the latter.

I only hope Ally has the strength to make the tough decisions needed to save his own job.